Artist: Thom Yorke
Label: XL Recordings
Thom Yorke needs no introduction at this point, and saying he needs no introduction goes without saying, so why am I saying it? I don’t know, I just needed an introduction in this review. We all know how influential his band “Radiohead” is. A band that have garnered much acclaim from critics and music fans alike with their eclectic music that strives to innovate and push boundaries. In fact, they’re so acclaimed that they just recently were inducted into the “Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame,” and if you’re aware of the “Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame,” you know they tend to ignore artists that are truly innovative, but here we are pleasantly surprised. Aside from “Radiohead,” Yorke has embarked on numerous music endeavors, including a decent solo career. Now, I’m not going to lie and say I’ve been the biggest fan of his solo material, (please don’t crucify me) because much of his music tends to be predictable or sound like “Radiohead” b-sides. That isn’t to say his music has been devoid of creativity and meaningful content, but the replay value is hardly there, but upon hearing that he was set to score Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake I was immediately intrigued. My expectations were exceeded with that soundtrack. Yorke beautifully crafted a dark and melancholy contrast to the film’s disturbing visuals. Following that up, Yorke has released his third solo album ANIMA, and this is the Thom Yorke solo album I’ve been waiting for. This album sounds like what I expected it to sound like, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This album has everything we’ve come to expect with Yorke’s solo material. The layers upon layers of synths, off-kilter drum patterns, and reverb-drenched vocal loops and harmonies layered to fall in disarray, but this time around this sound is perfected and truly hypnotic. Inspired by the subject of dreams, Yorke and longtime collaborator Nigel Godrich fully immerse the listener in a world of “Ambient Techno” that’s hypnotic and creates humanity out of the machines at work. The album’s opener “Traffic” hits you with buzzing synth bass and skittering synth arpeggios that build to a subtle climax that doesn’t bombard you with self-indulgence. This sets the tone for the rest of the album quite well, because the rest of the album follows a very similar note, and that’s the point, to hypnotize you and put you in a state that feels like a dream, and sometimes even a nightmare. Much of the album’s content deals heavily with claustrophobia and anxiety, and Yorke uses themes of dystopia to evoke feelings of anxiety, but there’s never a feeling of discomfort. A sense of urgency yes, and even a feeling of discombobulation, but it’s controlled and there is a frequent hopeful tone. The track “Dawn Chorus” is most definitely a standout track where Yorke’s almost spoken word vocals lay out a paranoid string of consciousness, but there is a sense of comfort beneath the madness. This isn’t an album that pummels you with abrasion or tumult, and it’s not trying to unsettle you, but with the darker subject matter, instead of delving further into the rabbit hole, Yorke and Godrich find a way to guide you through a meditative experience amidst the anxiety, as if they know most of their listeners find comfort and beauty in the sadder art, and pulling that off is no easy feat. If you find Thom Yorke to be pretentious or self-indulgent then this album isn’t for you, and the mere idea of Yorke using his own dreams as inspiration might make you cringe, but it’s definitely worth a listen. That’s right, i’m talking to you ya Thom Yorke detractors.
Written By: Steven Sandoval
Album: Plastic Anniversary
Label: Thrill Jockey Records
Just about any object can be used as an instrument. Anything that makes a sound can be utilized in a musical composition. ANYTHING. A washing machine, recordings of bovine uteruses, sperm hitting paper, audio of plastic surgeries, you name it, and though these sound like absurd examples, guess what? Someone has sampled all of these things in their music. “Matmos” is their name, a duo and married couple that produce music comprised of field recordings. The duo have been doing this since the late 90’s with a different theme for each album, creating dark and often surprisingly catchy tunes made up of nothing but field recordings. Their unorthodox approach to recording music has garnered acclaim, and considering how this approach to music could easily become a gimmick or novelty, it’s impressive how they’ve kept our attention after all these years. So what’s the next theme for their new album? Plastic. Oh plastic, how would civilization survive without it? Humans love convenience, and though it’s destroying our environment, we just can’t live without it, because the majority of our products are comprised of the plastic, and of course, “Matmos” have utilized a myriad of plastic objects to create their new album Plastic Anniversary. This album isn’t just the two banging on plastic objects creating only a percussive nature in the vain of “Stomp,” the countless plastic objects are sequenced and manipulated to create loops and layers upon layers of sounds that take the roles of rhythm, melody, and atmosphere. Many plastic objects are utilized like the breaking of vinyl on the opening track “Breaking Bread,” the use of pill capsules and the eerie and ominous tones the two get out of them on the track “The Crying Pill,” and the most captivating of all, the primal sounds created using riot shields which are scraped and banged on on the track “Thermoplastic Riot Shield.” Matmos cleverly show us all how anything can be an instrument. Everything from billiard balls to plastic horns, and the two impressively create whole melodic compositions that aren’t just a bunch of noise. That’s their forte. Field recordings have been used far before “Matmos” came along, but no one has ever utilized this recording method quite like them. Their music is incredibly innovative and they always think outside the box, finding new ways to create music using unorthodox instruments. If they can make you dance to a washing machine, then i’d say they’re IDM’s biggest innovators.
Written By: Steven Sandoval
Australian band “Tropical Fuck Storm” have been on a roll, and it looks like the band don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Today these oddballs released a brand new track titled “The Planet Of Straw Men,” as well as a music video to accompany it. The track will appear on their upcoming follow-up to last year’s spectacular debut A Laughing Death In Meatspace, which is set to be released later in the year. You can watch the music video below:
“The Planet Of Straw Men” Pre-order:
The Planet Of Straw Men
The masters of field recordings, “Matmos” are set to release their new album Plastic Anniversary on March 15th. The album’s instrumentation consists of sounds of various plastic objects. Why? Well, it’s “Matmos,” that’s why. Who else can make you groove to washing machine sounds? The duo have shared two brand new music videos for the tracks “Breaking Bread” and “Thermosplastic Riot Shield” off the upcoming album, and in true “Matmos” fashion, the duo’s imaginative talent has found a way to make you dance to unorthodox instrumentation. You can watch the videos below:
Album: Mazy Fly
Genre: Art Pop/Experimental/Electronic
Label: Sacred Bones Records
Have you ever discovered an artist so unapologetically imaginative and creative to the point where you suspect that this artist is not from this planet? Well, Chrystia Cabral A.K.A. “SPELLLING” most certainly fits this description. Following her 2017 debut Pantheon of Me, the Oakland, CA based musician delves further into her spiritual, poetic, and otherworldly mind on her new album Mazy Fly, the first on new label “Sacred Bones Records,” which is a perfect home for her immense experimental ambitions. This album, like I mentioned earlier, is vastly otherworldly with spacey instrumentation consisting of minimal and at times dark synthesizers, bare but mood-setting drum machine patterns, and eerie sound textures that can be as nightmare-inducing as they are angelic. The album is produced almost entirely by Cabral, but she also brings along other musicians for the ride to create her own universe. The live drums and guitars that flirt heavily with “Doom Metal” on the track “Real Fun,” the pristine saxophone on the track “Afterlife,” and the subtle violin on the epic track “Under The Sun,” are all gorgeous additions to this spiritual journey of an album, and also like I mentioned earlier, the alienistic lyrical themes further prove my hunch that she is from another planet. With lyrical themes such as aliens traveling to earth to discover music and dance to Billie Holiday and “Billie Jean,” and the use of theramin that evokes the spirit of B-level “Sci-Fi” films, it’s apparent that Cabral is a visionary who constantly looks past the surface level and lays her eyes upon the stars. Though she often speaks from the perspective of someone who extremely admires the universe and it’s endlessness, Cabral explores human sentiment as well. The track “Hard to Please,” speaks on the emotional and mental toll the pain of trying to please an unsatisfied lover can take on someone, but with a constant sense of optimism, this album never strays into nihilism or cynicism, no matter how deeply personal this album can get. Though I feel like Chrystia Cabral has yet to reach her magnum opus, Mazy Fly is one giant leap toward her masterpiece.
Written By: Steven Sandoval
Artist: Xiu Xiu
Album: Girl with Basket of Fruit
Genre: Experimental/Art Rock/Noise
“Xiu Xiu” are an interesting band to say the least. Lead by sole member Jamie Stewart, this vastly eccentric band have been making music since the early 2000’s. Music that has gained admirers for their brash experimentation soaked in tumult, and also music that has gained detractors who find the band incredibly grating. I understand both parties to be honest, because whether the band are creating disturbing songs about double penetration, or reimagining the soundtrack to David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks,” one thing is certain, their music is not easy to listen to. On one hand I’ll admire the band’s uncompromising style, and on the other I can find them immensely self-indulgent and utterly repulsive, but that’s why I find the band so damn intriguing. By now, going into a “Xiu Xiu” album, I expect to hear some bizarre shit, but somehow the band managed to achieve what I thought was impossible after so many years, the band managed to make their most uncomfortable, disgusting, insane, and off putting album yet with Girl with Basket of Fruit, and it’s in my opinion their best work. This album sounds like the mindset of someone who is losing their entire God damn mind. Filled with ramblings of nonsensical words I’ve tried to decipher but have failed greatly, this album is a haunting nightmare-inducing experience. The album opens with the title track, an off the wall Hell ride that features abrasive tribal drums, manic sound textures, and Jamie’s obnoxious vocals with graphic lyrics detailing frogs jumping up a woman’s butthole, fucking a duck, and floating dicks. Yeah, it’s so absurd and humorous that even Jamie is aware enough to scream “Stop Laughing!” in the middle of one of the verses. The psychotic nature heightens even more on the following track “It Comes Out As A Joke,” where Jamie sounds like he’s in the midst of a bad acid trip while he destroys everything in his room. Picture Bob Geldof destroying his guitars and breaking furniture in Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” It’s that kind of intensity but this song is even worse and makes that particular scene look like “Sesame Street.” The more ambient tracks like “Armargi ve Moo,” or “Ice Cream Truck” are more somber in tone, but are no less bizarre, with Jamie continuing to frantically rant these cryptic lyrics, and scathing violin that is the complete opposite of beautiful. Odd instrumental choices like these frequently appear throughout the album, like the weird chicken sound effects and incomprehensible audio clips on “Pumpkin Attack on Mommy and Daddy,” or the atmospheric sounds with tribalistic drums that echo the opening track on “Scisssssssors,” and with the bass in this production turned abrasively up and sounding intentionally messy, it’s clear that the band wanted to create their most unsettling album yet, and my have they succeeded. Can this album become a bit of a gimmick at times? Most definitely, but what prevents this album from becoming a complete parody of “Industrial” or “Noise” music is that we all know by now the artistry of the band is completely sincere. They’re never about shock for shock’s sake, and Jamie sings on these tracks with overwhelming passion, but what most of these songs mean, whether they’re metaphoric or just flat-out nonsense is beyond me. I just strap myself in and enjoy this psychotic ride with a smile on my face. Maybe I need help.
Written By: Steven Sandoval
Song: Rescue Annie
“Everything sounds the same.” This statement couldn’t be more true when describing the current landscape of most genre music. Especially in the world of “Electronic” music. Though we do have our imaginative visionaries who push the boundaries and offer more than the four to the floor predictability, most casual listeners are accustomed to the idea that “Electronic” music is one-dimensional, and that’s unfortunate, but “Electronic” group “WYVZ” are here to break that monotony. The aforementioned quote comes from the group’s new single “Rescue Annie,” where vocalist Devon Travis sings with melancholy fervor, and though the vocals evoke sadness, there’s also a hint of hope in his tone, and that contrast is beautifully executed. The instrumentation provided by member Georgia McEwen-Hall is what powerfully pushes the boundaries and displays the vast possibilities of “Electronic” experimentation. “WYVZ” is her brainchild, and her creation is truly captivating. Her previous E.P. Triangle showcased her innovative style, and now with “Rescue Annie” she has moved to the next level. With subtle atmospherics that have a meditative nature, the track builds and builds without being too overblown. The track carries a consistent tone that never bombards the listener with an obnoxious climax, but the attention to detail and the subtle progression keeps that track away from repetition. Everything from the arpeggiated bass in the beginning, to the Sci-Fi laden synths, to the eruption of clean percussion, this track is immaculately produced. Georgia McEwen-Hall is a producer to pay attention to, and now that “WYVZ” is a collaborative effort with fellow talented artists Devon Travis and Okee Brand who handles the technical side of things, this is an exciting moment for “Electronic” and “Experimental” music. A new full-length album is on the horizon, and hopefully the band doesn’t make us wait too long for it.
Written By: Steven Sandoval